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Unsolved European problems

Whereas France has deported Gypsies to Romania, Germany remains the most attractive country for immigrants. 9.8 million of immigrants reside in this country. What does it indicate?
21 November, 11:15

Statistics proves that last year the number of refugees in the world increased by approximately 800,000 people. Asians became the largest group of migrants in 2013, with about 19 million of them residing in Europe. This evoked a severer control of immigration services. “Unwelcome guests” who come to Europe under their own power are at best housed in so-called ghettos and at worse – are deported. Germany is at the moment one of the most attractive European countries for immigrants. According to UN data, the largest number of immigrants in Europe, 9.8 million people, mostly from Africa and Asia, are living here.


The problem of Polish and Ukrainian migrants in Germany is not as acute as the problem of immigrants from Asia or Africa. These are mostly people of working age, women, and children. One of the main reasons that make these people leave their countries is socioeconomic instability and constant wars. Europeans are concerned that immigrants will bring instability and crisis to their countries. Immigrants are looking for a place to feel more or less safe; Europeans are sure that migrants go to Germany only to get social benefits for unemployed. Actually, there is even an anecdote in Germany: “A tourist comes to Germany, goes along the streets and is glad to see them nice and clean. He likes the country very much, and decides to thank the Germans. He comes to one person and starts to thank, and the latter replied: ‘I’m Arab, not German.’ He shrugs his shoulders and goes further, approaches another person and starts to thank him again. And he hears in reply: ‘I’m not German, I’m Turkish.’ He comes up to the third person and starts to thank again, but the latter replies: ‘I’m not German, I am Asian.’ ‘And where are Germans,’ the tourist asks. ‘They are working,’ he heard.”

Radio reporter Wojciech Szymanski thinks that Poles don’t have any special problems in Germany. “They work on the same jobs, receive the same wages and enjoy the same social benefits. Over the past few years the situation has considerably improved, but I cannot say Poles have a bad life,” he says. His colleague, TV reporter Marcin Antosiewicz agrees, with him. “There will always be problems. Like there are problems in Poland and Germany. But those are totally different problems. Look at our country, how it has changed over the past few years – this is a huge progress,” he says.

Ukrainians residing in Germany have their opinion, too. On the one hand, they are sure that the majority of people simple can’t assimilate and because of this feel unneeded there. We can feel the same way in Ukraine. But Ostap, a translator from Hamburg, notes: “It is hard to assimilate here because of Germans’ attitude. We have jobs and homes, but it does not change anything: we are strangers here.”


The attitude to Asians and Africans is even harsher. People face abruption as soon as they cross the border, at the very beginning. Rightists demand to reinforce the country’s regime, and leftists and socialists – to keep the human rights and similar space for activity of people with national passports and without them, no matter what their nationality and color of skin are. These parts of society are so far equal (one of the most popular bloggers of Germany Markus Beckedahl a.k.a. RE:member mentions: “Their audience in the net makes about 40,000 views a day”), and very often the discontent gives way to meetings and rallies, which together with other social problems create the public protest movement. At the same time the tradition and inclination for holding peaceful revolutions has been part of German society since the end of previous century.

“Protests are taking place almost on a daily basis. Thousands of Germans go out to the streets. But these are for the most part peaceful rallies, involving one or two thousand of people. Big meetings are much fewer,” says young German Stefan. I became witness to two actions during my short visit to the country (October 14-18). The first one was an action of anarchists who rallied against the capitalist neo-liberal policy led by Merkel, Obama, and Putin. The second one was the action of the leftists in support of the immigrants from Africa and Middle Asia. They were chanting slogans of the time of the Berlin Wall’s fall (“The wall must fall!”) and called to equal rights for people without passports.

The last meeting was held according to the flash-mob principle. The announcement about the rally appeared on the Internet several hours before the start. The activists learned all the information from social networks. The reason of the meeting is the question of the tent town of immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, African countries, which was organized in Kreuzberg (an area in Berlin). Two weeks ago about 50 people came there on foot with a demand to pay attention to them and to get the confirmation of the right for shelter from the immigration agency. Some requests have been under consideration for several years. The refugees announced a hunger strike. The action continued on the square in front of the Brandenburg Gate. And only on October 18 did the activists stop the hunger strike. Social Democrats offered to support the refugees; they were content with such a scenario.

But negotiations with Social Democrats won’t solve the question of immigrants. Every time new precedents for discussion emerge. In particular, one should pay attention to the previous elections. Out of two newly created parties one may become the sixth political right-wing party in Germany.

At the moment Alternative for Germany (4.7 percent) is perceived differently: rightists call it a populist party, and leftists – a conservative party. Political experts from Federal Agency for Civic Education say only the lack of a charismatic leader prevented it from earning enough votes. However, if the party is able to refine itself during this period of time, it will stand good chances at the next elections. Sociologist, head of projects on analysis of market, social opinion, and social studies at Forsa Polling Institute Dr. Peter Matuschek agrees with this. In his words, the party of Alternative did not emerge without a reason. Those are people, who in their time split from other parties. Their audience includes well-educated Germans, in particular, men over 50, who own medium businesses. On the whole, the party promotes the ideas and alternative EU strategies – bringing back the Deutschemark – and restoring of own independent economy. In their opinion, common currency with Europe only hinders Germany’s development and destabilizes economy (such opinion is at the moment actively developing in France).


Thirteen years ago there was a sensational mass murder of migrants from Arab countries in Germany. At that time the police decided that those were internal squabbles of groups of migrants; however, two years ago it turned out that the murders were committed by the radical right. Then, on September 9, 2000 eight shots from two guns killed an owner of flower shop in Nurnberg Turkey-born Enver Simsek (the poster in Kreuzberg with his picture still reminds of this). He was 38 when he was shot. A year later, in April 49-year-old Abdurrahim Ezudoru was killed with two shots in the head, and in June 2001 – 31-year-old Suleyman Taskopru was killed in Hamburg. They all owned small businesses, connected, in particular, with food products. Similar murders took place in the following years. Only this year the investigation of this case has been launched, and by all appearances it will be continued in 2014.

“I cannot say similar killings and violence are a mass phenomenon, but there are such examples. Very often such cases are hushed up, because it is a tabooed topic,” Stefan says. And although the “political social wound” has not been healed, secondary school pupils study Anna Frank’s diaries.

Interestingly, the first multicultural radio station, which is also called multi-kulti, was founded in Kreuzberg. It mostly works online and broadcasts only in the morning and in the evening. It has mostly musical content: the world music. The radio cannot be called very popular, but the founders do not promote their radio station, mostly working as volunteers. So, in a sense, the problems of immigrants are not revealed even by a specialized radio station which, as it would have seemed, should be involved in this.

But German contemporary art does not keep silent. So, the film by Ukrainian migrant director (which is symbolical) Daria Onyshchenko Eastalgia (2012) has two finals: European and Ukrainian. In European edition the final is in multiculturalism – a Muslim woman takes off her kerchief, which symbolizes her liberation from native culture.

Another example is a play by German playwrights Jens Hillje and Nurkan Erpulat (a non-ethnic German as well) – Crazy Blood. The play premiered past year in Ukraine at the theater festival The plot of the play describes the situation of Arab migrants, and like in the film, the girl takes off her kerchief. In such a way directors tell about liberation of people from complicated circumstances.


It is quite possible that the problem of immigrants can soon grow even more acute and lead to radical actions, first and foremost because the large economy of Germany cannot always react to world fluctuations and internal problems. Secondly, because these problems haven’t been discussed or solved by anyone. But this dialogue and this decision should not be a decision of one country. This is a global problem which needs everyone’s attention. For “world migration of peoples,” if we can put it this way, is taking place not because people suddenly decided to live in a different place. To move from one’s native land to an unknown country is a decision which costs people life – and millions of migrants prove this by their own example.

Rigidity of migration service is connected with the policy of European Union on the whole. But the thing is not about the EU, Germans, French, Gypsies, Greeks, or Hungarians. Today there in fact is a risk of spreading of radical moods in European countries and one ought to fight this and prevent this from happening. But the reasons must be fought, not the radical movements – hushing up or suppressing may only exacerbate the situation. The hunt for Middle Asian resources is the main reason of unsatisfactory immigration policy, unsatisfied populace, and strikes.

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